Sunday, March 30, 2014

Civil War Sunday - The Storms of War

We, in the United States, are still trying to recover from a bitterly cold winter.  In my part of upstate New York, maple syrup harvesting is delayed.  Various cities have had record snowfalls.  In upstate New York, this morning, this was our forecast, and all I have to worry about is getting to work tomorrow morning.  I don't have to worry about weather and my troops.

The United States Civil War was influenced by weather, too, as are all wars.  We love to use storms as symbolism for wars, or coming wars (for example, take the ending of the classic 1939 movie, "Young Mr. Lincoln").  But weather, obviously, influences the course of war itself.  Take, for example, the Battle of Chantilly (Ox Hill) on September 1, 1862, fought during a fierce thunderstorm. Or, the so-called Mud March of January, 1863.

On top of the normal weather hassles of the soldier, some Southern soldiers, who had never experienced winter before, suddenly were introduced to snow and freezing cold temperatures as they served in war many miles north of their childhood homes.

On March 30, 1864, a North Carolina newspaper published this: "The weather continues cold, uncomfortable, and equinoctial".  (Equinoctial? That's our vocabulary word for today.)

But all was not grim.  

In fact, a soldier's biggest enemy, a lot of the time, was not battle, but another "b" - boredom.

On March 22, 1864, in Dalton, Georgia, a fall of between 3 and 5 inches of fresh new white snow could not be ignored by troops.  A great snowball fight broke out between Confederate troops from Tennessee and Mississippi and several other states.

There was strategy, taking of prisoners, charges, and lots and lots of flung snow by the time the fight was over. Civilian spectators came to enjoy the sight.

It was good that those troops got to enjoy a day of epic snow fighting and all-in-fun prisoner taking, because things were going to suddenly get a lot more grim, in a war that was already way too grim.

The storm clouds of war are gathering again....


  1. I agree with this! many battles on world war 2 got a lot of factors of defeat and winning because of weathers.. One good example is the axis against soviet battle.. A huge amount of snow and rain that makes delay of attacks.. Great post!

  2. This reminds me of when I first arrived in England from Australia.The cold seemed to bite into my bones. No matter how I dressed, I couldn't keep the chill out. It took years to become accustomed to it. The same must have happened to those poor soldiers. At least a snow-ball fight would get their blood pumping to warm them up.

  3. Aha, another very interesting post Alana! I don't know how people survived the cold/ harsh conditions.

    I've been thinking a lot about your blog comment yesterday...back to the drawing board. I think I might take a break.

  4. Well I googled equinoctial but don't really understand it in the context of that sentence... Perhaps it was better understood in that period? I can only imagine how cold it felt to all the soldiers but especially the Southerners! Here in the Carolinas many of us bundle up while transplantees are running around in flip-flops and t-shirts!


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